We're separated on the pitch, the terraces littered with different colours wherever you go, excitement in the hearts of all the fans, whichever team you support, on game day we stand both united and divided by the colours we wear and the chants we yell out. But, no matter which team you support, no matter what colours you wear, no matter which chants you scream and shout, we're all there for one thing: the beautiful game.
Unfortunately, those who aren't on the terraces with us can sometimes, quite easily, be against us.
Football Federation Australia (FFA) has had a tumultuous time of late, with fans staging boycotts across the country and voicing their dissatisfaction of FFA's policies on banning and appeals. While we've been at it, just having a good old fashioned jab at the FFA won't go unwarranted either, as they're not exactly doing a great job of protecting the game or, more importantly, the fans from recent media criticism.
FFA have definitely damaged any relationship with the Australian football fans, almost beyond repair. I say almost because at the end of the day, we the fans are stubbornly supporting our teams, and we won't be made the bad guys. Sure, there's a couple bad eggs, but which sport doesn't have a few bad eggs among the supporters?
While the dust may have settled temporarily, I still felt the need to write on what has occurred and what has come from the issues surrounding fans, football and the media.
The issue began with The Daily Telegraph publishing details of 198 fans who have been banned from matches over the 11 year history of the A League, followed by esteemed journalist Rebecca Wilson labeling us fans as louts.
Generally, I'd link the article here but frankly I have no interest in promoting her work.
As if this wasn't bad enough, another accredited media figure Alan Jones came to Wilson's aid by suggesting it's "like the terrorism in Paris."
Firstly, that is a completely and utterly disgusting thing to say. To treat the terrorism in Paris as a trivial matter is completely wrong on all levels, be it professional or personal opinion. I sincerely feel for the families or friends of the victims who had the misfortune of hearing such comments. Anyone who downplays a tragedy like that clearly has no heart.
Secondly, to suggest that the situation with the fans is akin to terrorism of any kind is absolutely fabricated crap, totally overblown and altogether unfair. I have been a fan for well over 7 years now, and I have only experienced one serious incident at a match which had both sets of fans up in arms over safety concerns. I didn't go around calling anyone terrorists, I just knew that it was a situation which would not go unnoticed by either of the clubs involved, the fans or the FFA. Sure enough, warnings were handed out to both clubs with serious repercussions to either side that didn't abide by those warnings.
Thirdly, as Simon Hill worded it, it is "conviction by media without proper judicial process". The information published by the Daily Telegraph was not all obtained legally by any means, and some of the banned fans were in fact underage at the time of their offences. By publishing their names and photographs, that is illegal and unethical journalism at its finest, and undermines not only the journalist, but the institution that allowed such content to be printed as a front page story. There was absolutely no context and no reason for it, and it has sparked a war between football and Australian media which will wage on for, no doubt, years to come.
Finally, cricket mad reporter Malcolm Conn has been nothing but anti-football for God knows how long. One of his latest tweets had to be deleted, but was already seen by enough followers on Twitter to not be ignored. For those who may have missed it, here's the aforementioned Tweet with a response from our governing body.
While I was happy enough that the FFA managed to actually stand up for us for once, it was too little too late. If they'd have done that much earlier, say when the confidential information about the suspended fans was leaked, that would've been ideal.
As Mark Bosnich brilliantly put it, "fans can do without football, but football can't do without the fans."
What all this has shown me though, no matter who comes at us, or what happens, we the fans have got a much louder voice than a lot of people actually think. The A League advertising campaign from a couple of years ago is much more than just a slogan, it's a fact. We are football. That means everyone, the teams, the executive boards, the broadcasting team, the fans.
I recall a couple of seasons ago, the Melbourne Victory active supporters staged a season long boycott due to unrealistic terms of support that was produced to them by the club. And I have to say, that season was the worst season to be a supporter, both on and off the pitch.
There was so much unrest between the supporters and the club that there was little atmosphere at the homes games that year, and the boys had arguably their worst season. The fans have a much bigger voice, and sometimes we need to exercise that to show how much we care, not about the clubs we support, but the game that we so love.
Reporter Tony Jones recently commented on how we're targeted more than any other type of supporters when it comes to crowd incidents. I couldn't agree more. When 90 were kicked out of the boxing day cricket test, nobody batted an eyelid. But if it was the football, oh we would be in for the scrutiny of our lives.
Since we're talking about some star players off the pitch who need a little recognition, Tony Pignata, CEO of Sydney FC, deserves a mention here. Rather than condemning Malcolm Conn's "grubs" comment, here's his response to it.
That was not the first Tweet he had sent out, suggesting an apology would be good but it's more than what I would have done. I'd have ignored Mr Conn myself and written him off as another football hater, but Tony showed to be the bigger man and extended an olive branch. My hat off to you sir, we need more actions like yours.
Football fans I urge you, don't ever give up hope. We'll always be targeted by cricket, rugby and AFL obsessed journalists who only ever work to tarnish the great game of football. But the stats don't lie, passion isn't a crime, we'll always be the bad guy because it's "un-Australian". Well, when we define Australia, almost everyone I ask will say we're multicultural. Nothing says multicultural quite like the world game.
It doesn't matter where we've come from, what jobs we work, the lifestyles we live. Football brings us together. I've felt the pains of the supporter groups no matter where you're from, and I could not believe the unity that resonated in every stadium from every set of fans. Honestly, it blew me away seeing banners of protest at every single match.
Whether or not the FFA will say anything on our behalf, we will always be there. Don't be defeated.
The boys on Fox Football Podcast have some interest comments on the latest issues with the media on episodes 8-10 of their show. I've always respected Simon Hill, but in episode 8 in particular he sounds like a professional football fan. They're on iTunes and SoundCloud for anyone interested in listening.
If you're interested in reading some good football articles written by someone who understands the game both on and off the pitch, I've come to respect and admire Sebastian Hassett of the Sydney Morning Herald. Just a personal preference.
Football fans, don't back down. We need to stick together. We are football, every man and woman, boy and girl. Every fan is just as important as the next, and we don't deserve to be labelled the way we have.
We are football